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Makarewa Headwaters Catchment Group

Covers the Lora and Otapiri Gorges water catchment area east of State Highway 96, and includes the landscapes where the Otapiri, Lora and Makarewa streams rise.


Alexis Wadworth
03 236 7416 

Mark Thomson


Group coordinator

Sarah Thorne

Number of members in the CG

The Makarewa Headwaters Catchment Group is made up of a core group of 10-12 people, with a wider group of 40 people (and growing!), who join in with events and projects.

Date the Catchment Group started

May 2019

Types of people in the group

The group is made up of a cross sector of farmers: sheep, beef, dairy, deer and horticulture, and community members, all with strong links to their community and local schools.  All are welcome.

Projects completed

The Makarewa Headwaters Catchment Group like to meet every month or two, either at a local’s house or farm, on zoom or at meeting room in Winton, and mix up meetings with interesting topics and presentations, with shorter project based ones.

They made the most of a fantastic opportunity last October, when Corina Jordan - Environmental Strategy Manager for B+LNZ, was in Southland.  Corina became a key speaker at their on farm field day and woolshed discussion on the new National Environmental Standards for Freshwater.  They looked at the practical aspects of the new legislation and possible on farm solutions, and toured Mark & Elspeth’s Thomson’s Farm to work through the new legislation and come up with possible solutions.

Learning all about the Lora and Otapiri Gorges water quality was the topic of their next meeting, with a great presentation from Justin Kitto, one of DairyNZ's Water Quality Specialists.  He spoke for almost two hours (with all the questions!) on water quality and ecosystem health, and how humans and animals impact them.  As part of the presentation, he had analysed the groups water quality data from Environment Southland and helped them understand what it meant for their area.  There were lots of questions and great discussions.

In December, the group worked with Limehills School and the Environment Southland’s Education Team to investigate the health of the Otapiri Stream using the SHMAK kit (Stream Health Monitoring Assessment Kit) on. It was a gorgeous day, and lots of fun was had.  It was great to see Limehills School and the Makarewa Headwaters Catchment Group working together, as many of the Catchment Group families are part of the school community.

The group then started the 2021 year with a very special field day on Margaret and Malcolm Mackenzie's Farm, looking at their native plant nursery and impressive shelter belts.  It was an amazing opportunity to hear and learn from Malcolm as he shared his extensive knowledge on successfully propagating native seed from local sources, through to seeing what these native shelterbelts can look like in a short period with well managed establishment processes.  Jesse Bythell from the QEII Trust provided a wealth of knowledge too.

Finally, the group (along with the other Southland Catchment Groups) took part in a nationwide eDNA (environmental DNA) water quality monitoring programme.  This will provide valuable information on the plants and animals found in and around New Zealand’s waterways.

Projects underway

In March, the Catchment Group started working with Ravensdown to create a LUCI-Ag project to identify Nitrogen, Phosphorous and sediment loss hotspots and pathways in their catchment, and explore possible mitigations at a catchment wide level.  This was approved by the Thriving Southland funding panel in April and started in July.  A public field day later in the year will be one of the ways that the results of this work will be shared.

The next project, which is in the initial planning stages, is a shared space and planting project alongside a waterway.

Projects planned

Possible future ideas include local river rubbish clean ups/ adopt a patch of stream, creating local stream side recreational spaces, on farm and local recycling solutions, and a Kowhai Reach stream field day in late spring with Jesse Bythell (QEII

Hosted events / meetings

  1. Field day and woolshed discussion on the new National Environmental Standards (NES) for Freshwater – 27 October 2020
  2. Learning about the health of the Lora Gorge and Otapiri Gorge waterways – 4 November 2020
  3. Stream health visit and investigation of Otapiri Stream with Limehills School - 8 December 2020
  4. Native plant nursery and seed propagation event at Margaret and Malcolm Mackenzie's – 26 February 2021
  5. Ministerial visit – 13 August 2021

The group also sends members to the twice yearly Southland Catchment Group Forum meetings, as well as Catchment Group training opportunities, and Oreti Catchment Group Leaders Get Togethers.

Purpose for Establishment

Updated August 2021

  • To understand how to manage our farming practices collectively and proactively, to better the on-farm environment, take responsibility for our catchments water quality, comply with new environmental legislation and promote the values that drive food production in this catchment as a collective voice.
  • Connect and create shared values: Sharing best practices management techniques and knowledge across the community in a way which fosters learning, community connection and ensures the quality of our land and water for future generations to enjoy. 


Updated August 2021

  • Be proud of what goes into the Makarewa River
  • Encourage good management practices intergenerationally
  • Which encourages a broader focus on the values of farming, rather than only focusing on fencing and planting activities
  • Strive for best practice - sharing of knowledge & on farm findings
  • Retaining the nutrient inputs to utilise as efficiently as possible
  • Continue to swim in our waterways, downstream and onfarm, for years to come
  • Community events & connection- creating shared spaces
  • Provide a social, educational environment to upskill and share knowledge and connections
  • Provide a collective voice

Find us on Facebook

Find us on our Facebook Page - Makarewa Headwaters Catchment Group


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